In the Bleak Midwinter


Doyle seriously thinks he'll explode if he has to sit in this overheated room with its tatty Christmas decorations much longer.

It's not just the faded streamers and faded tinsel that are driving him insane -- or even the plastic Christmas tree and the equally battered baubles -- but it’s also his family. Worse, sitting down isn’t comfortable anyway: his arse is sore despite the relative comfort of the plush armchair he's been allocated, thanks to his 'visitor' status.

His mother and her sister sit side by side on the settee. Both have doughy, pale faces and rather too much perm in greying hair. Almost like twins, he reflects, including in their habits. Christmas at Auntie Dora's means over-cooked turkey, equally over-cooked sprouts, and thin Bisto. Christmas at his mum's means virtually the same thing, except there's no Uncle Alf around at his mum's place to be liberal with the Sainsbury's sherry. A few years of being divorced have put a stop to luxuries like that, she always says, although Doyle suspects she spends what's left of her pension on bingo rather than booze.

His mum has never really approved of alcohol anyway -- it's a bit like sex: one of those things that other people do. Doyle often wonders if having to sleep with his mum was one reason his dad took himself off for pastures new and a younger woman. There are times he can hardly blame him, although he wishes the miserable bugger would get in touch more often than once in a blue moon - and help out a bit with his mum's pension as well.

He's not going to get onto the topic of his dad or money, though, or it'll spoil what little Christmas spirit they've managed to dredge up.

Thinking of spirits, at least this year they've all been enjoying the fruits of his raid on the off-licence before he drove up here. Doyle admits to himself that the idea of buying booze was more to anaesthetise himself to get through the few days than to be generous, and it does seem to have helped a little.

The two women seem to be talking about the neighbours -- or at least somebody who isn't meeting with their favour at the moment. Given the effects of the alcohol, their tongues are a little more loosened than usual. At the moment, they've decided some poor woman will 'come to no good'.

That's a constant leitmotif of conversations between the sisters -- the 'come to no good' part. Doyle's been on the receiving end of that often enough: about the art lessons, about joining the police (but why in London, Ray?), about learning to shoot, about his choice of friends... the list is endless.

"And what you hear about those men down Tattersall Road," his mother sighs melodramatically. "It's disgusting."

Dora nods. "Revolting," she agrees.

Doyle is tempted to ask how either of them knows about what goes on down there in the first place, but that wouldn't be a good idea. He wonders -- briefly -- what their reaction would be if they discovered he'd been in Tattersall Road just over twelve hours ago, taking advantage of all that the place -- and 'those men' -- had to offer.

Suddenly, he can't stand it any longer and mutters something as he heads for the kitchen, through a corridor that's so cold it's like bloody Siberia and then into another furnace.

"You escaped," his cousin says, stacking the last of the plates.

"Yeah," Doyle chuckles, leaning on the counter. "Your dad's asleep, and the ladies are on about Tattersall Road."

"Oh, that's a frequent topic among most of the population of their age," she nods. "Although I presume you didn't immediately confess that's where you were last night. I mean, that is where you were, I suppose?"

A few years at university have made Deirdre one shrewd young woman, although she and Doyle have been exchanging confidences for years.

Doyle doesn't answer, but grins faintly and taps his nose.

"Well, at least you're not denying it," she chuckles. "Strange to be back on home territory, was it? Not getting enough in London?"

"Yeah to the first one. As for London, I'm a reformed character."

"And pigs might fly," she scoffs. "Don't tell me you're suddenly going to turn straight."

"In this new squad, yeah," Doyle nods. "Either straight or celibate, anyway."

"Shame -- celibacy doesn't appeal to me, I must say. I'd much rather have a love life."

"Love's overrated," Doyle says, a bit sharply.

"Oh, come on Ray --" Deirdre sounds shocked, but then she falls in love about every three weeks. "I mean even... I mean don't you..."

"You mean do queers fall in love instead of just going for the quick and dirty?"

"Something like that. But surely they do."

"Maybe some of 'em," Doyle says, wishing she'd shut up. Not that it's a topic he's never thought about, but the 'love' part has never been on the menu of his encounters with other blokes. In fact, he's pretty sure he's never been in love, unless you counted the crush he'd had on Gerald Whatever-his-name was in the lower sixth - and that was the unrequited sort anyway.

"Well, maybe you'll meet... somebody," she says, not sounding particularly convinced.

"And do what? Go running to the boss and say 'Oh, by the way. I'm bisexual with a tendency towards gay and I'm in a deep, meaningful relationship with another bloke'? No bloody way, Deirdre. You should see the bloke who runs this unit. Can't see him patting me on the head and asking for me wedding present list."

"So tell me more about it. Sounds like quite the James Bond outfit from the little I've heard - I think it was about CI5, anyway. Guns and fast cars, chasing terrorists, that sort of stuff?"

"It's not that exciting," Doyle says, even though he's hoping it is exciting -- or at least more so than his last few jobs with the drugs squad. Besides, he doesn't feel like answering any more questions: he's seen enough of the small print to know that the less said about CI5, the better. "Just a bit more varied."

Deirdre watches him for a minute, wiping damp blonde hair off her face. Doyle thinks, as he's often thought before, that if things were different, he'd fancy her. Then, of course, he'd be breaking another taboo -- incest instead of sodomy.

It's not that he doesn't pull a bird now and then, he reminds himself -- he just doesn't enjoy it as much, and particularly when they start talking about mortgages and kids after a couple of weeks.

"Well, you watch your back, Ray," Deirdre says, giving the sink a wipe. "And find me some hunk down there who's just dying to meet a very junior marketing manager, will you? Because I'm hoping for a transfer to the London office this year."

"Good news," Doyle says, meaning it. "And I'll see what I can do. I'd stay off coppers or anybody in my line of business, though."

"You could be right," she agrees. "Particularly if they're as difficult to handle as you seem to be. Oh - and somebody rich might be handy. Not that I'm shallow or anything..."

She breaks off as his mum calls through from the living room. The Queen's speech is about to start, apparently.

"We going to see what the old bird's got to say this year?" Doyle says. He hopes he sounds casual, because he doesn't want to admit he gets a weird sort of kick out of the speech - the whole 'Queen and country' thing, he supposes. He started feeling like that soon after joining the force, despite all the bad things he could see -- and still could -- in Britain, or even in the world, come to that. After all, you had to believe in something, didn't you? Life wasn't all about standing braced against a wall with some stranger's cock up your arse, for a brief moment of pleasure.

"Penny for 'em?" Deirdre says. "You look lost in thought."

"Thinking about Tattersall Road," Doyle says with a wink, and leads the way back into the living room.

He tries to concentrate on the plummy vowels and the usual platitudes, but instead keeps thinking about what it'll be like to join the A squad. He's both excited and scared, a bit like he was the first time he let a bloke fuck him, or if he's honest every time he does, even now.

First, though, he has to pass the training course. But he will. He's absolutely bloody determined to. Then there's the stuff about 'partners' that Cowley mentioned in his whole spiel about recruiting the 'best from all the country's law enforcement entities'. He just hopes he gets paired up with somebody decent rather than some ex-army thug.

Bodie grimaces when the sport's cut short for dear old Lizzie to pour out her usual load of rubbish. He's tried to feel loyal and patriotic more than once in his life, although it never seems real, somehow. It's a bit like religion -- he'd tried to be a good Catholic to please his mum, but could never really believe all that stuff about angels and cardinal sin.

Maybe some people really did believe there was a benign old geezer sitting on a cloud, just as some of the blokes in the paras or the SAS actually did join up to protect the motherland. All the same, he suspects that most of them just wanted the adrenaline, the travel, or they preferred it to being unemployed or going down the pits.

For him, it hadn't been any of those reasons, he muses. It was simply that anything at all was preferable to living with parents whose idea of adventure was a package deal to Majorca or Benidorm, packed into a bus with several dozen others like them. Or parents whose idea of heaven was a new three-piece suite that was better than the neighbours'.

His mother never really understood why he'd run off to sea like that. She probably never would, but she seems reasonably content nowadays. She's probably also prattled on to half of Southport about 'William's new job with some sort of elite unit".

He could be in Benidorm now, of course, sharing the house he's bought for them for their holidays and eventually to retire to. He could be spending Christmas drinking cheap sangria and listening to his mum wishing he'd go out and meet the local talent, or gossiping with other English people over there about the pitfalls of Spanish supermarkets. He's managed to avoid that, though: at the time, the idea of staying in London on his own had seemed infinitely more attractive than pulling a señorita. Spanish women tended to be hairy, and if there's one thing he hates, it's hairy women.

Funnily enough, he doesn't mind hairy men. In fact, he'd have preferred screwing that bloke in the Regiment with the amazing amount of hair around his cock to the girl he'd picked up in the pub last night. At least Graham, or Gordon, or whatever he was called, gave decent blow jobs, and his arse was delightful rather than just a shade too well padded, like Jilly's, or Julia's, or whatever she was called.

He's picky, he admits to himself. Picky about who he fucks, what sort of whisky or champagne he drinks (although preferably doesn’t have to pay for it), and what sort of clothes to wear. Another good reason to get out of uniform, that.

The idea of CI5 fits in with his adopted image, he supposes. Its people are supposed to be the best, so that's clearly where he, Bodie, should be as well.

When he's passed the training course -- which he will, he assures himself -- he hopes they'll give him a decent pad as well. He'll put in a decent stereo, get a settee to put his feet up on when he's watching football. Get a few bottles of plonk in to impress visitors. Buy another couple of suits and decent shoes.

Right now, though, he's a bit hard up after buying the place in Benidorm -- and that's why he's in a grimy dump of a hotel until the CI5 training starts rather than somewhere classy, Bodie reminds himself regretfully.

But never mind - it's going to be great, hw reassures himself as he reaches for another bottle of beer. Fast cars, an ex-army bloke in charge: Cowley seems like a reasonable sort although a bit on the humourless side. But to all accounts, it'll be interesting work, and there'll be less tramping around swamps or climbing mountains with a bloody great rucksack on his back. In short, CI5's got everything going for it, hasn't it?

There was just that stuff about everybody being given a partner, Bodie reflects. He's not used to partners, or at least not working with one specific person on a regular basis. It could be all right, though -- as long as he doesn't end up with some stupid ex-plod.

The Queen's finished. So's the beer. His remaining reserves will probably stretch to a couple of drinks in a pub, though. He could even pull another bird - a bloke would be a bit dangerous as he doesn't really know the safe places to find one in London.

2 years later.

Doyle, still lying there getting his breath back, sees Bodie getting up and pulling his cords on. Soft, thick, good quality cords, of course. It makes him think back to the suits -- the ones his partner wore in the early days. And those shoes, shined to perfection in true army fashion.

Is he leaving already? No, he's going for a pee by the looks of it.

Doyle finds himself wishing Bodie'd stay, but he won't. He never does, so why should it be any different because it's Christmas?

His arse is sore, he realises as he shifts, and that reminds him of Christmas up at home two years before and that night on Tattersall Road when he'd offered himself to two blokes in quick succession.

He's not really as sore as that time now, anyway -- just a bit tender because Bodie's fucked him twice. Not that he's complaining about that - in fact he'd welcomed it. Wanted it. Getting Christmas afternoon off had seemed unlikely right up until the day before, so when Bodie had said something about 'celebrating' and given him one of those lewd looks of his once they were off duty, he wasn't about to refuse.

Bodie's taking his time. Doyle thinks he should get dressed as well, because there's no way he could manage another round, and Bodie doesn't often offer his own arse, which would be the only option if he's going to be able to sit down later. It's not that he never does, he reminds himself -- Bodie's got some sort of sense of fair's fair. It's just that ever since Doyle admitted he preferred being on the bottom, that's usually what happens.

Doyle watches the ceiling for a minute, remembering a few of the memorable occasions he's had that thick, hot cock in him -- and that includes today, because Bodie took his time over it the second time: made it last a bit, and they'd even worked up to it with a bit of fondling. He enjoys that.

The sex has always been good, though, even during the initial, clumsy, urgency of it all.

The first time, he reflects, was particularly unforgettable and particularly urgent. Both of them were tired, sweaty, coming down from an adrenaline high. Doyle casts his mind back and can't even remember who actually suggested they fuck, which is stupid. You'd think he'd remember something that important, although whether it was important to Bodie is another question.

What he does remember is the relief that it was finally out in the open and without having to go through the clumsy 'I've been with blokes, have you?' sort of scenario he'd never wanted to initiate.

He'd realised about Bodie -- course he had. Suspected it anyway, since he'd seen him with a hard on when they'd caught sight of a couple of rent boys going at it like rabbits in the back room of a seedy club, soon after they'd been paired. Doyle had sported one to match, but he'd always thought Bodie hadn't seen it. Maybe he'd been wrong, on reflection.

Then, of course, there were Bodie's oh-so-casual pats and touching. All that had started once they'd got over their initial suspicion of each other but that, too, had given Doyle a little food for thought.

He, of course, had kept himself to himself. He wasn't a toucher, or at least not to the extent that Bodie was. Bodie was the flamboyant one, not him.

Somehow, he'd still started to get the feeling Bodie was onto him. Maybe it'd been during that obbo they'd been on -- the one where they'd been watching a real fairy with jeans even tighter than his own. Doyle had been at the binoculars when he'd had another bloke over, and that had been such a turn-on he'd had to resort to a quick and dirty hand job once they swapped places. Maybe Bodie'd seen the state he was in when he'd rushed into the bathroom. Bodie didn't miss much.

Whatever it was, Bodie had obviously figured things out but he'd never actually come out and said anything. Neither of them had.

Doyle had fancied Bodie from the word go, if he's honest, although once he was fairly sure Bodie probably wouldn't refuse if he came out and offered himself on a plate, things got a bit more awkward in many ways. He might have been quite happy to fuck anonymous punters on Tattersall Road, but it was a bit different with somebody he knew and even more so when it was somebody he worked with every day. So he wasn't going to offer Bodie anything...

...or at least not unless Bodie did the asking.

Who did do the asking?

Now he remembers. Neither of them did any asking. That was the beauty of it.

They'd gone back to Doyle's flat, and Bodie had said something about a fuck being the best way of coming back down after the action. All innocent like, leaving it wide open for Doyle to make no comment or to say something that would have led Bodie to believe there was nothing doing.

Doyle hadn't done that, though. He'd let his eyes slide straight to his partner's fly, and the erection straining at the zip. Without saying anything, he'd looked Bodie in the face and seen all he needed to know. The sheer lust in his partner's eyes had been obvious. With his own cock hardening rapidly, Doyle had simply reached out and released Bodie's, and then his own.

Maybe that had been offering himself on a plate, but dammit, he'd needed it -- wanted it -- as much as Bodie had.

They hadn't lost any time getting to bed, and they hadn't bothered with any preliminaries. Doyle had had a sore arse that night as well, partly because it'd been a while since he'd been fucked so thoroughly, partly because Bodie was so well endowed, but also because Bodie hadn't really been particularly generous with the Vaseline since they'd been in such a bloody hurry.

After that, he'd fucked Bodie, and that had been a bit on the fast side as well. But also good.

Then Bodie had got up and gone home.

It had hurt the first time he did that, and if he was honest every other time he did it, but Doyle always swore to himself that he wasn't going to play the heartbroken little poofter over it. He wasn't going to let it get him down today, either, Christmas or not. The sex was still good, and that was enough. It had to be.

Since becoming lovers... no, Doyle corrects himself mentally, since they've been fucking, it's always his -- Doyle's -- place where they do it, whether by chance or because Bodie somehow makes sure that’s where they end up. Doyle wouldn't put it past him because it means he can decide when to leave. If he was in Bodie's bed he wouldn't be quite so anxious to get out of it. Maybe Bodie's afraid of that?

Often, Doyle thinks he should say something, or do something, about... whatever it is they're doing. You can hardly call it a love affair, but after nearly a year and on a semi-regular basis, it's a bit more than just a casual fuck.

Or is it?

That, Doyle thinks to himself gloomily, is the sixty-four thousand dollar question, and he doesn't want to be the one who asks it.

"Tea?" Bodie emerges, finally.

"You offerin'?" Doyle says, suddenly cheered because tea means Bodie'll be staying around. "Or askin'?"

"I'll make it," Bodie says. "Proper little Cinderella, me. Slavin' away."

"My heart bleeds for you," Doyle sighs melodramatically, watching Bodie's arse shamelessly because he's got his back turned. "Want something to eat?"

"Nah," Bodie shakes his head. "Got a slap-up dinner waiting, haven't I?"

This is news to Doyle, but he tries not to react. He supposes it's some bird Bodie's picked up -- and knowing Bodie he'll be perfectly happy to perform for the privilege of a turkey dinner. Bodie's confessed quite openly that he's willing to return favours to stupid bloody women who feed his face, and Doyle's never felt like picking an argument over it, much as it goes against his own ethics.

Besides, who's he to criticise: early in the partnership he'd been so desperate for a fuck he'd driven up home for a weekend and ended up back on Tattersall Road, despite his good intentions. He's had a few women as well, since he started CI5, but that didn't require any subterfuge to avoid anybody knowing. Strict and humourless as Cowley seemed to be, Doyle has a vague suspicion that he wouldn't condemn the idea of his 'lads' bedding any women who crossed their paths -- all part of the squad’s 'full-blooded male image’, he supposed. Besides, it didn't hurt for the others in the squad to hear him and Bodie teasing each other about some bird coming out of their flats early in a morning.

A mug of tea appears. Bodie's walking around slurping his and grumbling about being back on duty first thing on Boxing Day.

"So what you doing later? Watching the Queen's speech and then getting an early night like a good lad?" he asks Doyle suddenly.

Doyle feels like thumping his partner. The pompous, condescending bastard.

"No. Going to a party with some of me mates from art classes. Really interesting, those. Gets pretty wild... all those arty types, y'know."

"You wicked lad you," Bodie says airily. "Quite the little raver, eh?"

"Nah," Doyle says. "I just sit and drink orange juice and make polite conversation with the wallflowers."

"Oh sure," Bodie chuckles, and then glances at his watch. "Better be going then - give you time to get ready. Pick you up tomorrow?"

Doyle just grunts, and Bodie picks up his jacket and goes.

Why he's just lied he doesn't know, Doyle admits to himself -- or rather he does know. There's no way he's going to admit to bloody Casanova that there's not much else for him to do but watch the Queen's speech and to cook the chicken he'd bought, hoping to share it with Bodie, and then go back to bed and just... have him there.

Most of all, Doyle's started to long for sex with Bodie that includes long, lingering foreplay. Kissing, if he's really honest. Running his hands down the powerful body. Watching Bodie climax. That's hardly possible when Bodie's ramming into him from behind, but that's how it always happens. In fact, he makes sure that's what Bodie gets rather than giving any impression that he wants something... romantic, for want of a better word. Not that it'd be a good idea to tackle the subject: Bodie's been scornful about romance and love often enough, in passing comments, so he'd probably run a mile if Doyle tried anything like that.

Besides, they were hardly in love with each other. They’re CI5 agents, and blokes, Doyle reminds himself. And mates.

Stupid, stupid, stupid idiot. Christmas should be banned -- or at least if it gets him maudlin like this. Being alternately bored and miserable at his mum's suddenly seems almost attractive in comparison. At least Deirdre - or Dee as she calls herself now - would be up there to cheer things up a bit, although apparently she's got some new boyfriend from London she's taking up there with her.

Doyle wishes the poor bugger luck, and punches the television's switch more viciously than is really necessary.

Bodie pushes the car hard through almost-empty streets. Most of England's glued to the telly listening to the Queen or sleeping off Christmas dinner, he supposes.

His stomach rumbles, and he does a quick mental inventory of what's in his fridge. As far as he can remember, there's a couple of eggs and probably some bacon that's seen better days. Hardly the makings of a slap-up meal, but he couldn't have Doyle knowing he'll be on his own, could he?

The flat, when he gets in there, doesn't look quite the smooth bachelor pad he's tried to make it. It looks boring and bland, and the couple of Christmas cards tossed on the table don't help. Mercenaries and squaddies aren't really into the whole card-sending thing, he reminds himself: he hasn't sent any to his mates either, or at least the few he's kept in touch with. There's one from his parents, of course, with a breathless-sounding note about packing to go to Benidorm and what a shame he's working again because there's this wonderful little restaurant where you can get real Christmas pudding...

He should do something, Bodie decides. Something... useful, maybe. Shame the launderette’s closed.

Oh, for God's sake. Doing his washing on Christmas Day for want of something better to do. How pathetic could a man get?

Maybe he should go out, but where? He knows of a couple of gay bars by now, and has even used them in the past, but they'll all be full of fake Christmas cheer and drunken sex in the back rooms. Besides, he's already had Doyle twice in quick succession, so he's not exactly panting for it - not like he'd been once he'd walked into Doyle's place and known he'd be inside Doyle's amazing arse within minutes.

As always, it'd been good, and particularly the second time, he thinks. The first had been a bit quick, as it often was when he'd not fucked for a while, although Doyle had kept pace with him all the way and even climaxed first: maybe he'd not been getting enough either. The way Cowley's been working them, Bodie grimaces to himself, that's hardly surprising.

The second time, though, he'd really taken care. In fact, he'd even been tempted to suggest Doyle turn over so he could watch him, and take it even slower, but in the end he'd decided Doyle would probably stare at him as though he was going mad. After all, Doyle's made it quite clear: he likes to be fucked, and offers up that bloody marvellous arse of his on his hands and knees - or on a couple of occasions leaning over in the shower. He probably doesn't like the idea of being face to face - that's probably all part of the 'love's overrated' stuff he came out with once, early on in their partnership.

The fridge yields one egg and no bacon. Bodie curses himself for the lack of foresight -- he's got used to finding a café open at any time of the day or night now he's in London, but Christmas is different - they're all closed or full of families with kids or with couples. At least last Christmas he and Doyle had found a place open for the couple of hours they'd had off, and had ended up fooling around and probably pissing all the other clients off. But they hadn't been lovers then, so it had been easier, or at least in some ways.

Much as he doesn't want to think about Doyle and the 'lovers' thing -- if you could call it that it -- he can't help it. He'd wanted Doyle even when he'd decided the scruffy ex-copper was possibly the worst possible partner they could have given him, but initially had held back because he expected Doyle was straight. Then, when he'd started to have doubts about that he'd held back because he wanted Doyle to be the one who made the move.

Fortunately, Doyle had made the move, albeit with a little help. Bodie hadn't been disappointed once they'd finally got there, either, and the fact that Doyle admitted a preference for being fucked was the icing on the cherry, really.

He should have stayed at Doyle's, Bodie admits to himself. Doyle was quite a decent cook, to start with. And they could have fucked again, later. He could have offered Doyle his arse as a change, because Doyle's pretty damned good at that as well, if he's honest - better than most blokes he's had. Doyle gives excellent blow jobs, when it comes to it. In fact, all things considered, he's a sexy little sod.

Suddenly, Bodie thinks about Doyle at the party. Naked, of course -- and with some bloke's cock up him. Maybe he's sucking somebody else at the same time, or fondling some woman's pussy -- or letting her ride him. Or maybe he really does enjoy watching, and gets off on that. Does Doyle like the kinky stuff? It's not exactly the sort of thing they talk about.

Bodie's mind starts to run riot: he imagines working on Doyle -- a Doyle wearing nothing but some tight leather straps, legs splayed, whimpering, wanting. He'd thrust those slim hips up, to let Bodie push a finger in him, then two. Bodie would pull the strap to make the already hard cock jut up further and then take it into his mouth, sucking and swirling his tongue around and probing harder, deeper. And then, eventually, Bodie would straddle him, caressing the soft-bristly curls and finally sliding his tongue into Doyle's open mouth as his cock replaced his finger in the tight, hot depths of him.

Bodie moans, his hand sliding to his own cock as he imagines circling tight, tiny brown nipples with his fingers, biting gently into the soft neck skin. He'd take it slowly - oh, so slowly, making sure Doyle came first, spilling hot semen on Bodie's stomach, and then he'd feel his own balls tighten and then feel himself filling that magical arse...

Bodie fills his own hand instead. He feels like crying for some reason, which is utterly ridiculous. The last time he actually did cry, he remembers, was at junior school when somebody pinched his bar of chocolate. He's changed a bit since then, he thinks, with a tiny, bitter laugh.

Then the feeling changes to one that's more like anger, although he's not sure whether it's with Doyle or with himself.

Christmas, and all this stupid emotional stuff should be banned, he decides as he gets his breath back and starts thinking more clearly. So he'd better pull himself out of all this damned stupid mood and go out in search of some food. Chocolate, for instance.

2 years later

"Ray, you're not doing yourself any good." Dee says it kindly, but Doyle's not feeling very receptive.

"I'm all right."

"Sure you are. You look like something the cat brought in."

"You sound like my mum," Doyle snaps.

"Your mum thinks you were out boozing with your friends. I tend to think you've been down Tattersall Road for the last the last three nights in a row. Right?"


"I presume that means yes but shut up, Dee. I mean, I can understand in a way, but..."

She can't. Of course she can't.

"Leave me alone, Deirdre."

"Dee," she corrects him automatically. "And all right then -- it's your funeral. Although I must say I thought your funeral would be the result of something to do with your job rather than some horrible little rent boy with a knife or something."

"I can handle kids with knives. And who's talking about rent boys? Why should anybody down there want to kill me?"

"Because that place is full of rent boys out to make money these days, rather than being just somewhere your sort goes when you need sex. It's pretty much common knowledge - and if any of them find out you're some sort of copper... remember you went to school here and somebody might know what you do now. People talk up here, Ray."

She's got a point, Doyle realises, and grimaces.

"Look... thanks for the warning. But drop it now, all right?"

All right. End of lecture," Dee grins suddenly, throwing sprouts into a pan. "So -- got any juicy titbits about the wonderful world of crime-busting to tell me before we return to the social whirl in your mum's front room?"

"Oh, defused a couple of bombs, caught a few international terrorist rings -- that sort of thing," Doyle tells her with a grin. "That what you wanted to hear?"

"Naturally. But seriously -- you glad you joined? Remember four years ago just before you started?"

"Yes to the second question. And sometimes to the first. This last year's been a bit..." Doyle hesitates.


"Yeah. Speaking of tough, you checked on that bloody turkey that's been cooking for God knows how long?"

"Don't change the subject. What was the tough part?"

"Nosy," Doyle admonishes. "Just tough. But nothing I can't handle."

"Said with the usual 'I can handle anything' swagger, eh? My guess is that it's nothing to do with work. Somebody breaking your heart, our Ray?"

Deirdre-now-Dee lapsing back into local turns of speech is usually a sign that she's being serious rather than teasing. The 'our Ray' makes him - briefly - want to pour out a lot of things. But he doesn't.

"Like I said," Doyle repeats, "it's nothing I can't handle. Maybe I was just getting daft ideas about... somebody."

"Oh, I know about that," she sighs. "The whole love thing. I'm starting to think you were right when you said it was over-rated. But plenty more fish in the sea and all that -- or at least that's what I've been telling myself lately, because I'm about to become single again. If he doesn't end it, I think I will. Sometimes it's the only way."

"Yeah," Doyle mutters, wishing he hadn't let her get him onto this topic. He looks round the kitchen to try and find inspiration to get her off it again. Inspiration doesn't happen, but thankfully his cousin decides she has a phone call to make, and adds something about striking while irons are hot.

Doyle still likes Dee, he decides fondly. Some bloke's going to get really lucky with her one of these days, as long as she finds somebody decent. Somebody who doesn't treat women (or men, for that matter) like Bodie does.


It's strange being up North on his own for Christmas after nearly four years living in the daft sod's pocket. But Cowley suddenly came up with a week off, and Bodie buggered off to Benidorm for some reason he isn't telling. Doyle only found out where he was going because he caught Bodie charming the travel agent on the phone to get a last-minute flight.

What the hell is he doing in Spain? Doyle's been longing to ask, but he'd no more stoop to that than he would to asking Bodie what the hell's going on between the two of them.

To be honest, Doyle admits to himself, nothing much is going on. Not when it comes to sex, anyway, although they're now one of Cowley's crack teams.

Does one compensate for the other? Doyle tells himself that it does, and that they've achieved one hell of a lot on the Queen and country stakes, which is worth something, surely. And they're still mates -- probably closer than they ever were on that score. They do all sorts of stuff together -- sport, watching telly, the odd film -- they even double date. They just don't fuck much any more.

Right now, in his mum's kitchen, Doyle can't help feeling sorry for himself. Bodie would say he's in 'one of his moods'.

Bodie, Bodie, Bodie. His partner's driving him crazy and he doesn't know what to do about it or even whose fault it is. Maybe it's a case of six of one and half a dozen of the other. Or is there any 'fault' to talk about? It's not as though they ever made vows of undying love to each other.

Or is that part of the problem? The fact that they just fucked and never gave any thought to what it meant. What did it mean? Probably nothing to Bodie, Doyle tells himself. Considering Bodie's been bedding half the women in London for going on two years now, that seems to be a logical conclusion. And not to be outdone, he'd decided to show Bodie he could pull any bird he liked as well -- and that had culminated in the whole Ann Holly mess.

Even when Bodie had fucked him with unusual gentleness after she'd walked out of his life, Doyle had taken it -- albeit gratefully -- as simple pity. What else could it be? He wasn't even that upset about it all: it was more a question of hurt pride for one thing, and frustration with the job for another. Cowley's constant eye on his men rankled - maybe you could see it as caring, or maybe all he really cared about was getting the job done and to hell with feelings.

Maybe Bodie's just afraid Cowley could get to know about them somehow, so he's covering his arse by spreading it around so much. Maybe Bodie's right, as well. Maybe he's better off with his bloody harem than doing something like going down to Tattersall Road.

Dee comes back into the kitchen and he tries to jerk himself out of his misery. It's not getting him anywhere, and Christmas at home is miserable enough without letting himself sink into all these 'maybes'.

"So -- another one bites the dust," she says cheerfully, but there are unshed tears in her eyes. "So when are you going to introduce me to this partner of yours? Maybe I'm just his type?"

There's nothing Doyle would like to do less. It's quite enough that Bodie's breaking his own heart -- there, he's admitted it to himself -- without him messing up the one member of his family he cares about.

"Why not?" he says without much enthusiasm. "Oh, and Dee? Is the turkey supposed to be that colour?"

There. He's successfully got her attention back on the poor bloody bird that's slowly incinerating. She immediately embarks on some sort of a rescue mission, and Doyle gears himself up to try and eat some of it, followed by the Queen's speech, an evening spent trying to be polite to everybody, and then he can get back down to London.

Bodie should be back on Boxing Day as well, so maybe...

No, Bodie can do whatever he wants on Boxing Day. And when they go back to work the day after...


Doyle supposes they'll go on as normal, or whatever that means. Maybe they'll end up having a fuck after a job, or one night when they've had a few too many. Or maybe they won't. If they don't, it'll hurt, but as long as they can stay mates and partners he'll have to be satisfied with that.

Bodie never wants to see another glass of sangria in his life. Nor does he want to find himself in bed with any more Spanish women. He's been through three, and they were all hairy. Sadly, the waiter with the curly hair he'd had round the back of a bar was neither hairy where it mattered nor particularly sexy, although he'd been happy enough to offer his arse.

At least Benidorm's sunny, and the fish and chips really are just as good as they make it at home -- and there's no Doyle to complain about junk food and batter. That's also a good thing, Bodie keeps telling himself, but there've been times he'd even have eaten a liver paste sandwich just to swap a bit of banter with his partner rather than try to be polite to his parents' boring ex-pat friends.

Several times he's almost picked up the fancy white plastic phone to call Doyle, but what the hell would he say? He's just considered it again, while his mum gets herself dolled up to go out for Christmas dinner at some restaurant they've found, and even started dialling this time. But no -- even though he's got the number up at Doyle's mum's place, it'd seem a bit odd.

He's got to do something about Doyle, he tells himself for the umpteenth time that day and probably the hundredth time since he got on the plane. And the thousandth since that damned afternoon at Doyle's flat two Christmases before.

His mum sticks her head around the door, with that particular smile on her face that means she's about to try and force him into something.

"Now, William -- you are going to get yourself smartened up? You do know the Davidsons are coming over for drinkies before we go out?"

Where did his mother pick up words like 'drinkies', Bodie wonders? Mind, she's picked up all sorts of airs and graces lately: they probably came with the frilly cushions and other bizarre stuff she's been putting in since they sold up in England.

"Smart meaning what?" Bodie says, forgetting to be pleasant. He's tired of being nice, polite William after a few days of it.

"Well, a suit dear. It is Christmas."

She's starting to talk in that sort of verbal italics mode that half the other expats over here seem to do as well. Bodie sighs to himself, and looks down at the casual trousers and shirt. Suits were a bloody nuisance in the long run, particularly if you got blood and other interesting stuff on one half and ended up throwing the other away. At least Doyle's wardrobe had never suffered that sort of damage, Bodie grins to himself.

"William, I am speaking to you. And a tie, dear. The Davidsons always dress so beautifully. And they're just dying to meet you and hear all about your job."

Bodie tends to doubt that. The Davidsons will probably be boring, retired shopkeepers who wouldn't understand the first damned thing about his job. His parents don't either, although his father doesn't seem to care about much at all these days. Retirement seems to be slowly sucking the life out of him -- or maybe that's just a reaction to his mother's boundless enthusiasm for anything from her ladies groups to the godawful paintings she's doing and hanging up all over the place. He wonders what Doyle would make of those, just as he wonders what his mother would think of Doyle's idea of 'smart'.


That's the tone of voice that sent him to the merchant navy, Bodie remembers. Well, that and the wagging finger.

"Sorry," he says evenly. "I'll join you for dinner - don't wait for me. Got something to do."

This dereliction of duty actually seems to render his mother speechless. Bodie feels a tiny flicker of guilt, and then remembers the almost certainly awful 'drinkies' and is glad he came up with the excuse. CI5 seems to have trained him to think quickly, he chuckles inwardly to himself, although he'd never been exactly bad at that.

"So apologise to the Davidsons," he adds smoothly. "And I hope they'll get over the shock of me not wearing a suit. Oh -- and mum -- forget the idea of a budding romance with their daughter. If she's the fat blonde you pointed out at that other drinks party, she's not my type."

"Oh, William." His mother's about to turn on the waterworks: Bodie can see all the signs. "She's such a lovely girl..."

Bodie's half-tempted to tell his mother he prefers hairy male waiters. Or scruffy male partners. All the same, though, it's not really his mother's fault that he's bored and lonely -- she didn't force him to come over. He came because he was running away again -- that thought hits him and he doesn't like the way it feels.

"Look, mum," he back pedals a bit. "I've just got to check in with work. Maybe it won't take long. All part of the job."

"Oh..." she nods vaguely. "Yes... yes of course."

She'll be able to report on his very important job to the Davidsons now, Bodie thinks with a mixture of exasperation and sympathy. In a way, he feels sorry for her although she seems happy enough with the life she's leading. She bustles off, finally, and he glances out at the sea and thinks about Doyle again.

What the hell's happened to them?

They don't talk about their feelings, so he doesn't really know what Doyle thinks about it all, or even if Doyle cares. To all accounts, he doesn't or he wouldn't have gone off with one bird after another -- or if you got into really complicated double-think, had Doyle done that because Bodie had? Who'd started it? Bodie can't remember.

Of course, the stuff with Marikka hadn't helped. Doyle had taken that badly, although they'd got over it and moved on, at least as far as work was concerned. The same applied to that over-painted Holly bitch. Bodie had detested her on sight and it had been hard to disguise his relief when she'd dumped him. Mind, Doyle had needed a bit of comfort after that, Bodie had decided, so he'd offered it and they'd actually ended up in bed together for the first time in months. That had been weeks ago, and there'd been nothing since.

They’re still mates, though, Bodie comforts himself. Cowley's golden boys, eligible for a wee dram and for handling some of the old man's really tricky missions. Bodie's proud of that, both for himself and for the two of them as a team. So the sex part with Doyle isn't really that important, is it?

Bodie knows he's kidding himself. With the exception of Doyle, every single person he fucks these days is just that -- somebody to fuck. With Doyle, it's always been more than that -- a cliché it may be, but it's true. They're in tune in bed like they are at work, or at least when it comes to the actual fucking: the foreplay and variety parts of it probably aren't their strong point, let alone anything akin to tenderness. He'd tried to improve on that score the night Ann Holly had proved what a bitch she really was, although maybe sex hadn't been the ideal way of showing sympathy. Mind, it wasn't just sympathy, it was also an opportunity for sex: he'd initiated it, and Doyle had hardly refused, had he?

Bodie likes sex, dammit -- always has done. He's never had any trouble getting it, and still doesn't: it's far easier than getting good mates or good partners. It's just that he wants it all -- sex with Doyle and the friendship as well. It rather looks, though, that sex with Doyle was -- is -- just too much of a bizarre game where neither of them seems to know what the rules are.

Quite apart from that, it's dangerous, Bodie supposes. Maybe Doyle's decided the same thing. What if they started getting all lovey-dovey and somebody realised? Or what if it took the edge off their skills? Did being sexually involved -- Bodie decides that's a better description than 'lovers' - make a difference there? He isn't sure, but deep down, he thinks that it doesn't because he'd look after Doyle back whether he was fucking him or not. The whole 'mates' thing again.

What he is sure of is that something has to be done about the way things are now. But what? Or is it better just to say nothing and let things take their course? Is that the coward's way out, or the sensible thing to do?

Maybe he'd better go and have a couple of drinkies and thus avoid thinking about it too much. Maybe the whole issue will just go away somehow. Doyle'll find somebody else -- preferably somebody less snotty than the Holly cow -- and really fall for her despite his insistence on it all being overrated. Or maybe he'll find somebody himself. Settle down, get a mortgage, house in Spain, have drinks parties.

Bodie laughs at the very thought: there's no more chance of that than there is of him shagging the Davidson girl.

2 years later

Doyle lies there shell-shocked. He should be -- what's the saying -- basking in the afterglow after sex like that, but Bodie's gone and done it again. Just got up and left, with nothing more than an 'I'll be off then'.

Dammit, all that seemed to be in the past. More than once lately Bodie's even stayed all night They've even had early morning sex once or twice, on days they can afford to without running the risk of rolling up looking well-shagged at extremely inappropriate moments.

He'll never understand Bodie. Not ever. What the hell had got into him? Well, there was only one thing it could be, wasn't there?

Doyle flings the covers off and stalks over to the window. Even the weather's conspiring with all the rest to be as miserable as possible. Christmas, he thinks, should be about snow and log fires and sex on fur rugs, and not about lovers disappearing -- probably to go and have a rough and tumble with somebody who'll feed his face and his ego better than he, Doyle, can.

Angry as he might be, his body's still tingling and reminding him of Bodie at his best: a Bodie who's got a side he'd never imagined at first. Who'd have thought of Bodie taking the time to strip him slowly, to caress him until he was pleading for more? Who'd have imagined Bodie liked it in every possible bloody position, or that he'd screw up his face like that when he came? Or that he'd positively purr when Doyle returned the favours in kind and let his tongue play over the firm, aroused body.

The only thing they hadn't done yet -- and probably never will now -- is to kiss. Somehow, that's been an unspoken taboo between them. It's a good thing it never happened, Doyle thinks miserably. Maybe it would have been better if the sex hadn't turned into something so bloody marvellous, either.

He'd given up all hopes of that ever happening by the time it actually did happen, he remembers. They'd even gone for months without fucking at all after that Christmas Bodie had spent in Benidorm and had always refused to discuss.

Then Doyle had taken two bullets in the chest.

After that, when he was back in the field, he'd thought once or twice that it had almost been worth it, given the results. Apart from being a bit of a mother hen during his convalescence and retraining -- which was one hell of a surprise -- Bodie had also taken it upon himself to rekindle Doyle's sex drive.

He knew that major injuries messed things up in that department, he'd told Doyle casually one evening, soon after Doyle had been pronounced fit: he'd seen blokes in his old units go off the whole idea for months, and even then it took a little expertise to get them back in the saddle.

Doyle still remembers his utter amazement when Bodie had followed up that little speech by giving him an extremely erotic and superbly skilful blow job there and then -- and blow jobs hadn't often been part of Bodie's repertoire before that.

In fact, Bodie hadn't just rekindled his partner's libido, he'd turned it into a bloody great bonfire.

The sex, from then on, had been unbelievable. Never one to be outdone, Doyle had matched every new idea Bodie dreamed up with one of his own. They'd done it in front of mirrors, and brought the handcuffs out once or twice. Bodie had even had him over the table in the middle of a spaghetti bolognaise Doyle had made, which had been bloody... unusual: not only had Bodie actually abandoned a meal, but Doyle would never be able to face a plate of spaghetti without thinking of Bodie ramming into his arse again.

Seven months, it'd been like that. Seven months of mind-blowing sex, and at intervals that seemed to have settled down to two or three times a week. The whole 'normal, average couples' sex life' thing, Doyle had thought now and then, although he hadn't said so to Bodie.

And now, Bodie's done his usual disappearing act, and on Christmas bloody Day at that. Well, Doyle tells himself, at least he hadn't done something stupid like beg him to stay.

He'd always expected Bodie to get bored of him as a lover, and had been steeling himself for that for longer than he can remember.

In the same way, he'd steeled himself for Bodie's reaction when they'd got to bed the night before, and he'd come out with it: the fact that he was chucking the job in.

Bodie had reacted in a way he'd really not expected: he'd just said 'fair enough', and then they'd both fallen silent. Soon afterwards, Bodie had started snoring, the bastard.

Doyle hadn't slept much, his mind too busy with thoughts of all that lay ahead and with wondering what on earth was going on in Bodie's mind. He'd finally dozed off, only for Bodie to wake him and to drive him wild with lust before fucking him slowly and extremely pleasurably. For a while, Doyle had let himself believe that Bodie had accepted that Doyle was quitting CI5 yet intended their...whatever it was to go on.

Wrong. He'd buggered Doyle and then buggered off, Doyle sums it up to himself crudely.

So what now? He'd have to face up to it all one way or another instead of letting himself get nostalgic about sex or even about Bodie. It was the end of CI5 now, and -- the way it looked -- the end of Bodie. It seemed pretty obvious that the last, amazing fuck was Bodie's way of saying goodbye.

Well, done was done. It wasn’t a decision he'd taken lightly but he'd had enough, and the end of the year seemed like the right time to act on it. He'd written his letter of resignation after Cowley left on Christmas Eve and left it on his desk, and didn't regret it as he thought he might once he got home. He should probably have discussed it with Bodie, but he didn't -- maybe for fear that Bodie would try to persuade him out of it, or maybe he just wanted to do it before he had second thoughts of his own.

Bodie hadn't even asked him what he was going to do, Doyle reflects, but that's probably a good thing because he has absolutely no idea, and Bodie would probably have told him he was off his rocker.

He'll have to find a new flat, a new job -- what he's put away isn't going to keep him long, but it'll be enough for a while.

Suddenly, the whole prospect of life without work, without Bodie, is terrifying. But there's no going back now.

Doyle shivers. He's been standing by the window long enough to feel chilled to the bone. He tries to shake himself mentally rather than letting himself be sucked into the misery that's threatening to drown him, but it doesn't help that much.

So what's it to be? Christmas watching the Queen? Taking Dee up on the offer of dinner at her new place with the new bloke after all, after telling her he'd got something planned? Probably not a good idea, as in his present mood he'd spoil anybody's celebration.

As for the turkey -- he'd actually bought a bloody turkey and stuffed it with Paxo before Bodie rolled up the night before, ready to cook on Christmas Day. That was a waste of time and effort now. Not that he had the faintest idea how to cook it, but Christmas meant turkey. He'd even bought a carton of cheap, tacky crackers, thinking they'd appeal to Bodie.

Sod the turkey, Doyle decides. Sod the crackers. Sod Bodie. Sod Christmas. Sod CI5. At least he's got a bottle of decent Scotch in -- also with Bodie in mind -- so he can get drunk in style. Except he doesn't even feel like getting drunk.

Bodie arrives at Doyle's door and manoeuvres what he's carrying -- precariously -- into one hand as he unlocks the door, all ready to yell to Doyle to come slide the bolt.

It opens, meaning the lazy sod didn’t get up and bolt the door when he’d gone.

Just how many times had he told Doyle to be careful? Well, maybe today wasn’t the right time for arguing about that.

Where is he now, anyway? Ah, the shower, judging from the sound of water.

Bodie goes into the kitchen, dumps everything in there, and shakes his head to himself. If he'd been some Chinese bitch with a gun -- or anybody with any kind of weapon...

No, he’s not going to think about that.

He slides the bolt into place and waits, looking around. Doyle's pads are always more interesting than his somehow -- that's one reason he much prefers to spend time there, quite apart from not having to wash semen-streaked sheets. Then he can't wait any longer. What the hell is Doyle doing in there for so long?

The bathroom's like a Turkish bath, and the taps are on full.

"Ray?" Bodie has to bellow, and for a brief second he's terrified that Doyle's had a heart attack in there or something, whatever the quacks have said about him being as strong as a horse.

But no, Doyle pulls the curtain aside, water streaming down him, and stares.

"What the hell are you doing?" he says.

It's not quite the reception Bodie was hoping for, but then that's Doyle for you.

"Wondering why you'd forgotten to put a sign up that said 'to all would-be assassins, I am in the shower. The door's not bolted, so just come on in'.

Doyle continues to stare, but has the grace to look a bit embarrassed. In fact, he looks distinctly odd, somehow. Upset. Then he shakes his head, sending a fair few droplets in Bodie's direction and says he'll be out in a minute.

It takes three or four, but he finally pads into the living room. Bodie's helped himself to a whisky -- Doyle's definitely been pushing the boat out this Christmas -- and is debating whether to put the telly on, on the off chance there's more to see than Songs of Praise or yet another rerun of the Sound of Music.

The sight of Doyle is far, far better than television, however. There's something about Doyle with wet hair and wearing very little: Bodie remembers the first showers they took together when CI5 finally installed such sophisticated sanitary equipment, and having to take a cold one when he was confronted with the sight of Doyle wet and naked.

Instead of talking, Doyle goes over to the window, and Bodie's mouth dries. The pale, winter sunshine's making the thin robe transparent, and Bodie can see the lean lines of him underneath. He knows that body so well now: the tangle of curls on top echoed by the one further south, the fading scars on his chest and the older one on his thigh. And, of course, those big feet of his. He often teased Doyle about them, and Doyle always retorted that big feet meant cocks of equally impressive proportions.

Dammit. Despite the sex earlier, he wants more. Now.

He can't help himself. He goes over there to stand behind the skinny figure and slides an arm around him. Doyle stiffens, then gives a tiny grunt of surprise. He doesn't object as Bodie lets a hand stray up inside the robe, caressing thighs, back, arse.

He's not erect though, when Bodie gets that far, but Bodie's on a mission now, just like he was when Doyle was convalescing. He knows exactly what Doyle likes, and caresses, strokes, teases, nibbling the exposed neck and breathing in the shower-musky smell of his hair.

Finally, Doyle starts to react, shifting slightly as Bodie probes gently.

"Wait there," Bodie says softly, and is back with the lube in seconds. Doyle hasn't moved an inch, and is still leaning on the windowsill. Bodie strips rapidly and continues, and is rewarded by feeling Doyle's heartbeat increase. That used to scare him shitless, but Doyle -- when he realised it was holding Bodie back - just teased him that everybody's pulse started to race when they were about to be fucked, if he'd noticed?

And Doyle is, indeed, about to be fucked, Bodie thinks happily. It's tempting to take him right now, like this, but in the end he withdraws his fingers and points towards the bedroom. Doyle lets himself be steered in there and rolls over onto his hands and knees.

Bodie doesn't want it like that. He rolls Doyle over and starts by licking slowly down the taut belly and then teasing, stroking, sliding fingers inside again. Doyle's hard, panting, but he's still not saying much. They're not exactly given to poetic declarations at times like these, but Doyle's silence is a bit unsettling. Finally, though, swirling his tongue luxuriously around his balls makes Doyle moan, and he's pushing down on Bodie's fingers.

"Hard." Doyle finally speaks. "Hard, Bodie."

That wasn't what Bodie intended either, but he's not arguing -- not when Doyle's on his knees again and offering his arse like that.

He's trying to take it slowly, at least, when Doyle repeats the order, more fiercely this time. So hard is what he gets. It's taking Bodie all his skills to avoid coming too soon, but he's rewarded, finally, with Doyle uttering a long, weird-sounding moan and shuddering. Bodie feels the semen spurting and his own balls tighten and his eyes squeeze closed and he's there and God it's good and he's so deep and Doyle's so tight...

Doyle's lying on his back with his head turned away when Bodie's once again capable of rational thought.

"Hard, eh?" Bodie says softly, not knowing what else to say. Doyle slowly turns to face him.

"What the fuck was all that about?" he asks, although there's a catch in his voice.

"All what?" Bodie says, genuinely puzzled. "Can I help it if you're standing there half starkers and as sexy as hell when I come in?"

"No, I mean coming back."

"Coming back? I said I'd not be long, once I'd picked up the stuff. Took me a bit longer than I thought because I dropped in at HQ, but..."

"Stuff?" It's Doyle's turn to be puzzled.

"It's in the kitchen. You said you'd cook, so I said I’d nip out for some booze and other stuff. Don't tell me you were asleep when I told you that."

"Booze?" Doyle seems incapable of more than monosyllables, and he's still looking at him like he's grown another head.

"Booze. Drink. Beverage. Liquids. Alcohol," Bodie supplies helpfully, and then Doyle's weird mood starts to make sense. "You think I walked out for good or something?"

He expects Doyle to come up with some flippant denial, but to Bodie's amazement, he just nods.

"Prat," Bodie says, matter-of-factly, but he's also kicking himself inwardly, suspecting it's partly his own fault, all this. "I suppose you thought I was going to carry on as one of Cowley's finest once you've gone into the bargain. You must have missed me saying that as well - the bit where I said I’d better put me own letter in with yours. That's why I dropped into HQ. Boxing day surprise for the Cow -- he's off doing whatever he does at Christmas at the moment and hasn't read yours yet either."

"Now who's a prat." Doyle recovers a bit but he's clearly absolutely gobsmacked. "What the hell did you do that for? And how do you know he hasn't read it?"

"Because I called Betty at the crack of dawn to check, and to tell her to hold back until I'd done mine. When I knew you were asleep rather than thought you were awake, so's you didn't start on the selfless stuff and tell me to reconsider."

"Oh." There's a wealth of expression in that particular monosyllable.

"So that's that," Bodie says cheerfully. "You hungry?"

"Hungry?" Doyle manages two syllables.

"As in food. Turkey, sprouts, spuds, gravy. You did put that turkey you bought in?"

"No," Doyle mutters. "How long do turkeys take, anyway?"

"For ever," Bodie chuckles, and then sees an opening for the other huge issue he's promised himself to deal with before today's over.

It takes him a massive effort to get the words out, in case he's making the biggest prat of himself since wetting himself at kindergarten, but he does it anyway. "And Doyle -- speaking of forever, and the future... what about it? And don't just lie there and say 'I never knew you cared' in the hope of making me embarrassed for going all sloppy."

Doyle doesn't answer straight away. Bodie feels something clutch at his guts: what if he's got everything horribly wrong after all? Maybe the last thing in Doyle's mind is any sort of future with him? Maybe Doyle's leaving CI5 because he wants a complete break, including from his partner?

"I never knew you cared," Doyle says, slowly, after a second or two. He sounds serious, although that's not an answer, is it?

Bodie swallows, wondering what's coming next. He has trouble meeting Doyle's eyes in case he doesn't like what he sees, but he does it anyway. The grin on Doyle's face -- surprise and happiness all mixed - makes him feel like letting out a massive great war whoop.

"A bloody long time seems all right to me," Doyle adds. "Better the devil you know, right?"

"Right," Bodie agrees, trying to sound calm and casual and failing miserably.

"That's settled then," Doyle says complacently.

"But while we're on the subject," Bodie continues, "I don't think I'm ready for acting like a pair of old fruits and walking around hand in hand choosing curtains yet. Oh -- and we'll need to find jobs. A lisp and a limp wrist aren't going to help there."

"Agreed for the limp wrists," Doyle says thoughtfully. "But what the hell are we going to do? Got to admit I haven't given that much thought yet."

"Worry about that in the New Year, eh? I've got a few contacts."

"Yeah, right. Dodgy outfits the lot of 'em."

"Beggars can't be choosers."

"And," Doyle's sitting up, frowning. "What's all this about choosing curtains?"

"Forget that," Bodie says sharply. "I was just... assuming things."

"Oh yeah? How about if I say I fully agree with the assumptions. But we might kill each other if we try to... well... have a stab at the couple stuff. Living together. You do realise that? "

"Ground rules," Bodie says solemnly. "We'll need some ground rules. Like -- I dunno --"

"Sort that out later as well," Doyle says cheerfully. "We might need to think about how people'd take it if they get to know as well."

"Don't think me mum and dad and the Benidorm crowd would exactly throw us a party and offer us a double bed," Bodie chuckles. "Don't recommend the place anyway -- it's a bit like England except for too much sangria and too many Dagos. Did I ever tell you they lived there?"

"No," Doyle says. "And that explains a thing or two, I suppose. Benidorm?

“Benidorm,” Bodie nods mock-gloomily. “Cheap booze if nothing else.”

“Right,” Doyle grins. “Can't see my mum being particularly chuffed about... us, either -- she worships at Mary Whitehouse's altar. We'll have to think about how to deal with all that then. Don't think there's that much hurry though, is there?"

"Nah. Tell you what is urgent, though," Bodie says. "Food. Get that bloody bird in the oven at least and I'll open a bottle."

"Oy. What did yer last servant die of?" Doyle asks him, but he does head for the kitchen.

"It was just a friendly suggestion," Bodie says, feeling delightfully smug. The sight of Doyle, naked, reaching for something to roast the turkey in has a few things going for it as well. Dammit, this really is Christmas, in every possible way.

"Good. Stick to friendly suggestions rather than orders then," Doyle says, although there's no sharpness in his tone.

"Fine, Raymond. But as we're into do's and don'ts, try saying 'hard please' next time you want to be fucked like that," Bodie suggests, chuckling.

Doyle smirks, and to Bodie's utter astonishment, plants a kiss on his cheek before chucking the turkey into the oven.

"Got a problem with me doing that?" he asks.

"No." Bodie most certainly doesn't.

"So 'ow about returning the favour, then. Please."

Bodie does. Thoroughly. Lengthily. Doyle responds, and Bodie discovers it's extraordinarily good, kissing a bloke. Well, kissing Doyle anyway. He'll be telling him he loves him next, although he's not quite ready for that yet. Actions speak louder than words anyway, don't they?

"Doyle?" Bodie says when they come up for air. "Turn the bloody oven on. It helps. I'm starving."

"Yeah," Doyle says absently. "Although we can probably manage to pass the time somehow while it cooks."

"Oh definitely," Bodie says. "But let's go and find somewhere comfortable for it, eh? And I've got some tinsel. I can think of all sorts of interesting places to put that."

"Happy Christmas, Bodie," Doyle says suddenly. "Daft prat."

"And to you too. And as for the prat part, I always loved those sweet nothings of yours. What's for afters?"

"After the turkey? Queen's speech," Doyle says firmly.

"If you can get the telly into the bedroom. Ever watched it while having hot sex - handcuffed to the bed with tinsel, for instance? That's my idea of afters, unless you got a Christmas pud, in which case the sex would come after the afters. Or in between."

"No Christmas pud," Doyle grins. "So we'll have to settle for the other alternative..."

"With the tinsel?" Bodie asks hopefully.

"Maybe. Aren't you going to wish me Happy Christmas?"

"I'll do it in kind," Bodie tells him.

And he does.

-- THE END --

December 2005 (revised December 2006)

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